The phone trap

In most ways I'm the complete opposite of a Luddite, embracing every new technology that comes down the pipe. In recent trips to the mall I've been blown away by 3D television displays, touch screen desktops, iPhones, tablets, video game consoles (that PS3 is small AND quiet), video game handhelds and other stuff. If I won a $10,000 shopping spree I'd probably rush to the electronics sections first with a carefully researched shopping list of items to grab.

But while I can appreciate all this new technology I have yet to make the leap to owning a real cell phone, much less a smart phone - despite the fact that they've been around now for a long, long time and are so very, very cool. It's not that I don't want a smart phone or couldn't make good use of one, it's just that I really don't think I can afford it.

Our landline is predictable. There's a monthly fee, a certain amount of free long distance, then a predictable rate for more long distance when we've reached the limit. I've never looked at a phone bill and had to wonder where I was going to get the money to pay it.

I also have a cell phone, a 7-11 handset that came free with the purchase of $100 worth of pay-as-you-go minutes. I put about $50 on it every two or three months and keep my calls short to stretch out those dollars as much as possible. On average I pay between $15 and $25 per month.

Cell phone plans are far more expensive. A poll in the Pique office found an average monthly cost of around $80 once all fees and extra charges are taken into account. Some spent as "low" as $65, while others were over $100. The cost seemed to depend somewhat on features and plans, but also on the person's willingness to play hardball with their providers to get the best possible deal.

Here's where I have an issue. My home phone bill is currently around $35 a month. My wife and I spend around $40 a month combined on our pay-as-you go phones for a total of about $75 a month on average.

If we were both to get smart phones and keep our landlines our collective phone bill would increase to around $200 a month. If we were to cancel our landline and get two cell phones then we would pay anywhere from $130 to $160, depending on what plan we opt for. Either way, our monthly costs would at least double and possibly triple.

Then we have Elly. Elly is not even two years old yet but a day will come when she will need her own phone. It's entirely possible that rates in Canada will drop by then but we could seriously be looking at a monthly cost over $250 - almost enough to lease a car.

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